Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Breeders' Cup Top 10 - Ladies Classic

Ladies Classic Top 10 - June 17th

1. Zenyatta
2. Cocoa Beach
3. Acoma
4. Rachel Alexandra
5. Music Note
6. Seventh Street
7. Life Is Sweet
8. Ghanaati
9. Again
10. Witty

I really did look long and hard for a good reason to put Zenyatta somewhere other than first on this list. She is going to have a very easy campaign and now with rumblings surrounding her participation in the Vanity some have begun to suspect a physical issue. But the fact remains that even if Zenyatta were to have no races between now and the Breeders' Cup she would still be the most likely winner. She is perfection in a bridle. I've attempted to go against her in the past when I thought she might be vulnerable but she has won every race like it was no big deal. She will be the horse to beat in every race she runs.

Cocoa Beach probably gave Zenyatta the biggest test of her career in last year's Ladies Classic. She sandwiched that effort between a G-1 win over Ginger Punch and a G-1 win on the grass over Precious Kitten. Zenyatta is the only filly to beat her since her first race of 2008. She handles every surface and still may have some improvement in her. Godolphin is blessed with an abundance of very good older females so don't be shocked if this horse has more of a Turf campaign. I think she is a big contender for this race and the Filly & Mare Turf.

Acoma is definitely a lesser light within this division but I'm intrigued by her chances for a few reasons. I love the consistency that she's shown, especially on the traditional dirt which I don't think is her favorite. She has never lost a turf or synthetic race and I think she is better suited to those surfaces. She has never tried very difficult company on the synthetics but the class she's shown in other races makes me confident that she can compete at the G-1 level. She's got a very nice turn of foot and that's a weapon that can be smartly used against late runners.

Rachel Alexandra is only 4th on this list. Talent wise she may be the equal of Zenyatta but the experience of Curlin in last years Classic will have a negative impact on her participation in this race. Jackson seems to hate synthetic surfaces. Last year the temptation of taking on the biggest prize in racing was too great to resist. I'm hoping a similar sentiment grips Jackson this year but until then Rachel is more likely not to run. She has never tried synthetic surfaces and conventional wisdom says that speed horses aren't quite as effective on it but good horses can handle various conditions and Rachel Alexandra is definitely a good horse.

I thought Music Note got stiffed last year when she was denied the divisional championship. Things are much tougher year because winning an Eclipse means outshining Zenyatta as well as her talented stablemates. Her season did not start in very good fashion with a 5th in the Ogden Phipps but her connections had previously said that she wasn't training all that well in the build up. Her pilot also made a poor tactical decision when he elected to sweep wide around the field while still three furlongs from home. As long as they have her right for the second half of the season she will be a major factor in the Ladies Classic. She was third last year and any improvement in form this year makes her one of the favorites.

Seventh Street is the third Godolphin filly on this list and while she is ranked last among the royal blue trio she might be the one with the most upside. She really is a rather unexposed horse. She has never been on synthetics and has never even been 9f. Those questions see her ranked lower than her stablemates but they also could be positives. There is no reason to believe that she won't be as effective or even more effective on synthetics going 9f. She has the same sire as Zenyatta so breeding can't be too much of a question. She has brilliant speed, which can get an inexperienced horse in trouble but once she and her connections get everything sorted out speed is a major weapon. I think she'll likely be ultimately suited by closely stalking the pace instead of contesting it.

She's the unofficial little sister of Zenyatta but unfortunately for Life Is Sweet it's nearly impossible to envision her winning a race with Zenyatta in it. She has the same style as Zenyatta but she's not as good. One her best day I think she could beat everyone else though. If Zenyatta for some reason doesn't show up this filly needs to be looked at. She is very consistent and she has been earning big numbers on the synthetics.

Europeans won the Classic and Marathon last year. I suspect many trainers will have taken note and will decide to point fillies at the Ladies Classic. Ghanaati is the type of European that may be attracted to a race like this. She is owned by Sheikh Hamdan and is already nominated. Barry Hills, her trainer has sent 6 horses to the Breeders' Cup although none for nearly a decade. With the right horse I think he'd consider it. Ghanaati is 3-2-0-1 lifetime and most recently won the 1000 Guineas in her 3yo debut. She looks like an extremely impressive sort of filly. She's by Giant's Causeway out of a Mr. Prospector mare so there is nothing wrong with the bloodlines. A European miler may be just the type of horse to shake up the conventional crowd in the Ladies Classic.

Again is another European miler but she's from the O'Brien/Coolmore operation so a shot at the Ladies Classic would seem more likely. I could have thrown in a filly like Goldikova who is a similar but more talented version but I think Goldikova will stick to the turf while the Ballydoyle boys will be looking to conquer new worlds. Again's style has been to either win or have a complete disaster. She is 6-4-0-0 lifetime and is already a dual G-1 winner. She's a very useful filly that could add some spice to this year's Ladies Classic.

Taking Witty over a horse like Seattle Smooth is controversial but I really don't like Seattle Smooth going forward. I think she'll win another stakes at Saratoga then gradually fall off the pace in the autumn. Her speed figures have also not been that great. She sat a perfect trip in the Ogden Phipps and got a 97. Witty on the other hand is unbeaten and untested. She has already taken out the talented Carlsbad and earned a 96 Beyer. My feeling is that she gets better with time and distance. Mandella is one of those trainers that you can trust to have a horse ready for the big days, especially Breeders' Cups at Santa Anita. Witty just might be the best horse in his barn.


Megan said...

Glad you have given props to Witty. I think she is very special.

The_Knight_Sky said...

Good work.
You've done a lot of research for this edition of Ladies Classic.

With the tremendous depth on the East Coast, can you blame Zenyatta's connections for becoming homebodies?

I would too especially since it looks like the Handicap Division will feature horses who will beat up on each other the rest of the way. A Horse of the Year campaign is not out of the question despite the short itinerary for Zenyatta.

Anonymous said...

I totally disagree, you cant win HOY with 3 grade 1's and 3 grade 2 races. For people that realize that she is great im all for it, but for people to give her HOY for beating very little competition basically waters down Horse Racing. I enjoy Zenyatta alot, but I also enjoyed Peppers Prides run towards 18 or 19 wins in a row, and when you're beating up the same fillies each time it just really doesnt mean much. A horse of the Year campaign is challenging and a struggle not just stepping out of a stall and winning easy races over and over again on a surface that has not had a history of championships. Zenyatta in my opinion is the California Horse of the Year, they have guarded her very well and I respect that but HOY votes for Grade 2 wins, thats laughable. Those that understand horse racing realize that to be HOY you go and find the best competition and put together a HOY campaign not duck races that are of historical significance to run in races that have little importance.

peeptoad said...

Just FYI Cocoa Beach returns this Sunday at BEL in a listed dirt stakes race...